Absurd:Camus (Part 2)

The political implications of being Absurd are explained in  Albert Camus’ “The Rebel,” or to put it in a better way, the political framework of Absurdist thinking is laid down in the book because it is easy to confuse an Absurd person with a cynic.


A cynic thrives in confusion and is hopeless while an Absurd person, embittered by the apparent meaninglessness of life, keeps the furnace of his anguish alive and realizes himself in action. This was portrayed movingly in “The Plague” by Camus in whose world an Absurd person nurtures his commitment, nourishes it and also keeps it under check so as to restrain it from breaching the limits of sustainable behavior and to avoid from getting consumed by it.

For existentialism, as Sartre puts it in “The Road to Freedom” trilogy, particularly in the last book of the series, “Troubled Sleep,” commitment is unforgiving or rather the ones who created commitment by choosing in its favor also made their own choice irrevocable thus beyond the option of course-correction.

Sartre's characters stay affirm and find meaning in action (pic:idesweb.bc.edu)
Sartre’s characters stay committed  and find meaning in action (pic:idesweb.bc.edu)

Unlike a cynic, an Absurd person speaks the language of action by adhering, a priori, to the unacceptability of absolutism. An Absurd person speaks the language of moderation. One can claim that the same is done by a cynic, who persistently points out the grey area of an argument. However, there is a critical difference. While adhering to the grey, an Absurdist would still move in the direction of taking the both sides along. Thriving in paradox and creating a commitment to synthesis.

A cynic negates both sides and refuses to even keep his own assertions alive for he is all too ready to inverse his arguments once the catastrophe predicted by him fails to materialize. This attitude finds its extreme expression in the sample of arsonists and others who are fond of wanton destruction.

An adamant nihilist externalizes the costs of his choice (pic: njcriminaldefense.com)
An adamant nihilist externalizes the costs of his choice (pic: njcriminaldefense.com)

Another argument could be raised about creating the absolute of moderation. It does sound almost sacrilegious to quote Gandhi in support of the Absurd, however, his idea of truth spontaneously generated the essence of moderation when he said that the truth being multifaceted, it becomes an untruth and unacceptable on anyone’s part to impose on others his own version of it by force and it is a duty of all others to stand in opposition to any such attempts. The additional limit of non-violence is absent in the Absurd, where murder is possible but it has to be compensated by self-sacrifice, always. Camus makes this point in “The Rebel” when he remembers the tragic individual terrorists of Russian revolution. And it is at this point when the Absurdist position can be seen to be distinct from that of a pacifist. An Absurdist will not take the refuge of avoiding conflict by singing the tunes of bi-partisanship in perpetuity.

Gandhi's commitment to moderation was uncompromisable. (Pic:archive.tehelka.com)
Gandhi’s commitment to moderation was uncompromisable. (Pic:archive.tehelka.com)

And no, an Absurdist is nowhere close to being a hedonist for he is ever watchful. He is always ready to unfurl the flag of rebellion against those who advocate extremism or put a guise of expediency or demands of history over the killings of innocents.

Camus decries ignorance but also acknowledges the incompleteness of life, the fact that life is condemned to be defeated perennially in death. He excludes the option of suicide by bringing to attention an Absurd person’s abhorrence for ignorance. Absurdist’s desire is to end ignorance and work towards unity and for that he will have to remain on the battle-field, regardless of the insulting absence of a rival or an enemy on the opposite frontier.

The quintessential absurd man.
The quintessential absurd man.

And that’s why Camus chooses Sisyphus as a metaphor for the Absurd person, for Sisyphus will endlessly carry the rock to the summit only to watch it roll back again to the ground zero. Sisyphus persists because he cannot extinguish his rebellion. A slight departure from the mythological view is necessary here to emphasize the extra-ordinary situation of humanity as unlike Sisyphus who was aware of his curse the state of mankind lies in the unknown. For us the universe is silent and therefore our rebellion must be carried on which is not possible if one quits the scene of action.

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